Have you ever tried implementing healthy lifestyle habits (such as changing your diet to lose weight, starting an exercise regimen, or beginning a daily meditation practice), only to find yourself right back where you started with your old habits within a few weeks or months? Healthy habits do no good if you can’t actually stick with them. So what’s the secret key to success with healthy habits, and how do you avoid the seemingly inevitable backslide into your old ingrained habits? That is the subject of Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson’s new program, “Reboot Rezoom”.
In this episode, I’m speaking with Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, who is an adjunct associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester. She’s president of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and founder and CEO of Bright Line Eating Solutions, a company dedicated to helping people achieve the vibrant health that accompanies permanent weight loss.
In this episode, Dr. Thompson shares the key principles of how to make new healthy habits STICK (the basis of her new program “Reboot Rezoom”) which helps people pick themselves up after breaking their new healthy habits and get back on track, and helps them avoid getting off track in the first place.
In this podcast, Dr. Thompson will cover
- The key to healthy lifestyle habits and sustainable weight loss (it is not what you think!)
- Why Reboot Rezoom can help you achieve your goals
- What is Bright Line Eating?
- How to get back on track with your healthy diet and lifestyle habits when life gets in the way
- The personality traits of people who are successful in implementing long-term diet and lifestyle change (and how you can become successful too)
HOW TO GET FREE ACCESS TO HER NEW REBOOT REZOOM TRAINING: If you’re interested in losing weight or the secrets of how to make healthy habits STICK, make sure to also go sign up for Dr. Thompson’s FREE training on this that is available for the next 10 days. You can get free access HERE.
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What Sabotages Healthy Lifestyle Habits and How to Become Unstoppable In Achieving Your Health Goals with Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. – Transcript
Ari Whitten: Everyone. Welcome back to The Energy Blueprint Podcast. I’m your host, Ari Whitten, and today, I have with me my good friend, Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, who is an adjunct associate professor of brain and cognitive sciences at the University of Rochester, New York Times bestselling author, and she specializes in the psychology and neuroscience of weight loss, willpower, and food addiction.
She’s president of the Institute for Sustainable Weight Loss and founder and CEO of Bright Line Eating solutions, a company dedicated to helping people achieve the vibrant health that accompanies permanent weight loss. She and her team are on a mission to help 1 million people get into a right size body by 2030. So welcome to the show.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Thanks, Ari. So good to be here with you.
Ari Whitten: I’m going to call you Susan instead of Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson because that just sounds a little, a little overwhelming given that we’re good friends for going on almost three years now.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yes.
Ari Whitten: And, we have had some beautiful discussions over the years, and we’ve become good friends, and this is the second time I’m now having you on the podcast and it’s really a pleasure to reconnect with you and share your wisdom with my audience yet again,
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: It’s so good to be here, Ari, and you are, I say it to you all the time, but I will say it again. You’re my favorite person to talk about the science of health and weight loss and fat loss and energy and everything… because, yeah… there’s no one whose mind I respect more.
What is Bright Line Eating?
Ari Whitten: Thank you so much. I appreciate that. And the feeling is very mutual.
So, weight loss and your new program Reboot Rezoom. So, I guess let’s step back. So, for people who are unfamiliar with you, let’s talk a bit about what you do with Bright Line Eating and kind of a general overview of that first. And then I want to get into your latest work and the latest stuff that you’ve been coming out with — your new program that you’re releasing called Reboot Rezoom. And I want to talk about all the details and the science around that. But talk first a bit about your background with Bright Line Eating for those in my audience that are not familiar with who you are and what you do.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah. So, I think a lot of us who do this kind of online thing we have a personal story that leads us to kind of show up with a particular message and mine is really about addiction. And then like in particular food addiction, I struggled with my weight and my food for most of my life. I was overweight as a teen and the only way I knew how to manage that was with drugs, which was not the most elegant solution. Crystal Meth, crack, cocaine, get you thin, but not well.
Then I got clean and sober when I was 20 and then the food addiction just swooped right in and engulfed me. And I was obese by my mid-twenties and binge eating disorder and just like just hooked on that cycle of like trying to lose weight and then falling off the wagon, trying to lose weight, falling off the wagon.
And in those cycles through my twenties, my weight just climbed, in every, like few months or a year, seeing it reach another sort of 10-pound increments. Okay. Now I’m at this desk, this is like up and up and up. And when I was 28, I fell in with a community of people in a 12 step food programs that were like really specific with their food and I lost all my excess weight. And I’ve been in a right size body now for over 15 years. Which res, the odds of someone who’s obese, rocking, skinny jeans for over 15 years. It’s just, it doesn’t happen, right? The odds are really, really slim. No pun intended.
But then I have this academic path too, right. Like I got clean and sober when I was 20 and I just went back to school and I just dove in and I started studying the brain and the mind and neuroscience and psychology and got really interested in how the brain works and why a brain like mine can go so far off the rails, right?
Like I’m really addictable and I was kinda curious about the science of what that’s about. And I got my PhD in brain and cognitive sciences became a tenured psychology professor, started teaching a college course on the psychology of eating and the neuroscience of food addiction. And then in 2014 those worlds kind of collided. They met. And I don’t want to sound freakish or whatever… But I got a message in my morning meditation to write a book called Bright Line Eating. It was the weirdest thing, like in language, like, right. I’d never even heard those words, Bright Line Eating. But so, I started out to try to write that book and that the Bright Line Eating movement has grown out of that and we help people who struggle with their food and their weight to get all the way slender, like really down into goal weight, they’re right sized body, they self-chosen, right size body and then stay there long term.
And we really, really invested in people’s longevity with that. Like how do you stay there? Everyone can lose a few pounds. That’s not the issue, right? How do you stay there? And my latest course really sort of picks up with, I think what’s a missing piece of that puzzle of longevity, right? Like I’m living in a right size body lifelong. I’ve been doing it now for over 15 years and we got people in my community. Bright Line Eating is four years old now. We’ve got people who’ve been living in right sized bodies for three and a half years now with Bright Line Eating. And I hope that jet flying overhead isn’t too loud for you. But anyway, that’s, that’s kind of the backstory.
Ari Whitten: So, I wanted it for people who are not familiar with this term and maybe people are wondering what bright lines or what does that mean and what is Bright Line Eating mean, in that context?
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah. So bright lines are a legal term originally. If you Wikipedia a bright line rule, what comes up is that it’s a legal standard that you apply this, this rule every time to produce consistent, reliable results. And psychologists co-opted that term several years ago and started applying it in like sort of situations of willpower depletion, or temptation, right? Like if you’re going to be the designated driver at a party, you’ll be way better off if you have a bright line for alcohol, which means a clear boundary, you’re not going to cross. I’m not going to drink it all tonight as opposed to not a bright line, which is, boy, I’m going to make sure to drink moderately tonight. Which, you never really know which side of that line you’re on, you know.
So, what I’ve sort of been teaching and through my own research, the more, the more susceptible to addiction you are, and people really differ, there’s a continuum of susceptibility to addiction.
The more susceptible to addiction you are, the more likely bright line rules are gonna be really helpful for you. Right? Like you can picture the three pack a day smoker, the nicotine moderation program might not work that well for them. They might really need to quit smoking, like just n zero tolerance policy ever for cigarettes and our society accepts that really readily. But our society is less quick to accept like a no sugar policy for example, where for some of us that’s really the best approach. Like the one experiment bonds is about as bad as the one cigarette experiment. Like it’s just I got no business. I’m dabbling in the one cookie experiment. So…
Ari Whitten: I have to say on a personal note, this, this has been an area of my own education in the context of becoming friends with you and learning more about your work because, initially our relationship got off to a rocky start because I had some, some, I think we both had some, some hesitance to accept it, to accept some of the other person’s kind of views on certain things when it came to a sustainable fat loss.
And one of the areas that I was coming at it from was sort of a everything in moderation. And we need, we need to avoid demonizing certain foods and having very strict, rules against eating this or that because that can kind of potentially backfire. And you can get people who become orthorexic and eating disordered or who just kind of, they fall off the wagon and then kind of get wrapped up in this, sort of negative thought cycle of I can’t do this.
This doesn’t work for me. And I, because of that, my approach, trying to avoid those outcomes was everything in moderation and you basically told me, and I’ve seen now because I have about a probably a thousand or so members of, of people who are in my program who have gone through my program, who have also come from your program. So, I’ve seen amazing levels of success with people following your program and you have an amazing group of followers who swear by it. That’s the only thing that’s ever worked for them.
And that a certain point I just had to accept, hey, there’s a segment of the population, pretty sizable segment that the moderation approach just doesn’t work for them. they, they don’t. Their brains are not wired to be able to have a little bit of this or that. And then to be able to stop. It sends them in a downward spiral that becomes completely counterproductive. And the only way that you can deal with that situation is through these, these bright lines.
So, it’s been a process of me learning. I’m being incredible value that you’re bringing to the table and what a simple and elegant and novel solution it really is.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Thank you so much. And I just want to presidents how much you’ve influenced me too because there, there really is no one right way for everybody. Right. And Bright Lines are not for everybody and I never deny anyone their research. Right? Like try it out, see, see what works, you can do the one cookie experiment, the one piece of pizza, trial and it, it kind of works for you. Like the proof is in the pudding really. And that’s kind of a bad Bright Line expression, but results speak for themselves. Right. And we do have a track record of helping people who’ve been for example, formerly obese people who are obese today and start Bright Line Eating our 55 times more likely to be at a normal BMI in one year than the typical population.
So, we have a research program we’re publishing. I did, I tell you are our first paper got accepted for publications. Now we have three conference presentations and one paper in press, in a peer reviewed journal, and like two or three more papers in preparation.
Ari Whitten: That’s awesome. Congratulations. So glad to hear that. I’m not. No, that’s another one of the things I really love about what you’re doing is that you’re not just somebody out there that’s saying, Hey, here’s my program. My program is the best. You’re actually conducting formal scientific research to prove that your methods are the best, which is more than can be said about pretty much any other weight loss approach and existence. I mean, some of the approaches have been…
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: [Crosstalk]
Why Susan developed the Reboot Rezoom program
Ari Whitten: Yeah. So, but I, I want to make sure that we spend lots of time here talking about your new work, your latest work that you’ve been working on, which is called “Reboot Rezoom”.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah.
Ari Whitten: So, tell me kind of the context and the background for this and why you’ve developed this.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah. So, well, as always, it just comes out of that fire on my own gauntlet. Like it’s like, what happened for me ironically, as I came into the beginning of the Bright Line Eating movement. Like with that idea that came in my meditation, write a book called “Bright Line Eating”, at that point I’d been pretty solid rock in my bright lines for like 10 years, I had a little stretch in there of two and a half months where I thought I might be cured and like healed. Then I try to competent eating like an intuitive eating thing. And I was like, oh yeah, that still doesn’t work.
So other than that, break, it was like eight years, two and a half months, and then two or three years. And I mean for those eight years, like not a single baby carrot did I eat off my plan, like not one bite of food that I hadn’t pre-committed and was completely unplanned. Like just a ridiculous track record of automaticity and success and whatever. And then I started Bright Line Eating.
My food was really clean for about a year. And then the sort of discombobulation I’ll say of the success. I mean, you kind of watched a lot of it. Bright Line Eating just exploded to a degree that I didn’t anticipate that, I got three little kids I had to like get out of my tenured professorship in the middle of that hand back tenure and figuring out how to extricate myself from academia and like…
I started breaking my bright lines like I didn’t have structures in place in my life that were robust enough to handle the travel, the restaurants, the interviews, the TV, the podcast, building a team. Like I never intended to be a business person. Like I didn’t want to charge for anything. And then my husband was like this is costing a lot of money. Like we have a thousand dollars on our credit card that you better start charging for this.
So, all this happened, and I got into this loop that a lot of people experience a falling off the wagon and getting back on. And, Ari, you’ve seen a lot of this like the morning after a binge and like here you are again. we’ve gone for walks on the beach like more than once with my food. Like, how are you doing? Well, my food just went off the rails and you know me, right? Well my food’s off, everything’s off like I’m a fucking wreck, right? And but a lot of people have food issues can relate to that. It’s like, you start off with some great intention and motivation and you got the new system now and you’re crushing it and the weight is falling off. You feel great, you look great.
And then like little time warp, who knows what happens there, right? Kid’s got an ear infection, mother-in-law’s in the hospital, work ramps up, I’m going on a cruise, it’s the holidays friggin whatever, fill in the blank of that little, storm right there. And all of a sudden, you’re taking your comfort in food. You’re indulging, you’re off track. You’re kind of trying not to notice. And like before you know it your way, it’s all back on and you’re like, “damn it man”. And you’re like figuring out the new system, the new thing you’re going to try because now you got to get it all together again. And I kind of went on this rollercoaster, it was like over three years.
Now, I didn’t gain any weight because, I guess honestly because my belief in my, like the necessity of leading the Bright Line Eating movement was strong enough that I’d watched a few pounds creep on. I’d be like, “well this won’t do. I’ve got to be on TV on Thursday, representing Bright Line Eating.
So, we’ve got to get this weight off”. Right. So, I would break and Rezoom at break and Rezoom a break and Rezoom. It was whip lashing. And what happened though is that, I collected a lot of data just watching all this come down and I noticed two trends through these three years.
One is I stopped being in pain about it, like it stopped impacting me on an emotional level. And I started getting curious about that. Like, why, why aren’t I scared anymore? Why aren’t I hurting over this anymore? Like I can actually sit with a bowl of cookie dough, downing it and just kind of go, “Huh, that’s interesting. I’m eating a bowl of cookie dough today”
And then like get back on track and like what shifted in me that I was able to have poise through that and then the breaks stopped happening. I got really curious like how did that happen? And just recently I looked back at the track record, no more breaks happening anymore. And I started piecing together the framework that my system had learned through those three years.
Like what was I now doing differently that got me off that merry go round. I’m not on that merry go round anymore. and so that was the birth of the Reboot Rezoom course and the reboot Rezoom system. What I’m, what I’m telling people is like, there is a way to inoculate yourself against this, like starting off with motivation and then crashing into the gutter. This like, or losing weight, putting it all back on, losing weight, putting it all back on.
And it requires a different mental approach to the whole process. You’ve got to reframe the whole process of what you’re doing, because you’re setting off with expectations that set you up for that crash. What the course teaches essentially. And that’s the reframe and I got a free video series that talks about it because I always liked to put everything for free, for people who can’t afford to or don’t want to do the program or whatever. I put the nuggets and the videos so that like at least people can walk away understanding the new reframe.
The disconnect between what the science says and thegeneral public knows about weight loss
Ari Whitten: I want to introduce a little bit of context in here that I want to talk about, but I want to present it to the audience because I think it’s really important for people to understand this. So, there’s a gap between what is known in the science about weight loss and what is commonly thought within the general public about weight loss.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Man, Ari. I love it when you talk about that! Spring it. Yes, there is.
Ari Whitten: So, one of the things that, and this is not the fault of the general public, this is the result of, of marketers and people trying to make money, who are knowingly misrepresenting the science and are misleading the public for the sake of making money.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Right.
Ari Whitten: And one of, one of the end results here is that for decades now, there’s been this all this talk, and everybody’s wrapped up in this thinking, “Oh, is it fat that makes us fat? Is it carbs that make us fat? Is it what’s the, what’s the proper list of good and bad foods? Are Lentils, good for me or bad for me? Are grains, good for me or bad for me.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.:And what about lectins?
The key factor to sustainable long-term weight loss
Ari Whitten: Everybody’s different, there’s lectins and there’s gluten and what about dairy? And should I go vegan? And should I go keto? And everybody… And, and what people don’t understand is that for the diet industry, for all of the people who are the bad people, and there’s some good people in the industry for sure you’re obviously one of them, but there’s some bad people out there who are, who are fakers, who are charlatans, who are knowingly misrepresenting the science for the sake of just trying to make money off of people.
And basically the end result of this is that we have a general public who’s caught up in all of those different details of what’s the right diet, what’s the best magical diet that will get results when in fact in the science community that among obesity researchers, it’s extremely well established at this point because they’ve done lots and lots of studies comparing specific diets that there isn’t one magical diet.
The key factor is adherence to the diet. It doesn’t matter like if you look at long term success rates of people on low carb Atkins diets to vegan, low fat, Ornish diets, to Mediterranean diets, to South Beach Diet, to lots of other names, diets that have been introduced with varying levels of carbs and fats and proteins and animal foods and lots of other differences. Polar opposite diet. If you track long term differences in outcome, there’s very, very, very little differences in terms of these long term out weight loss outcomes.
The key factor of the people who actually lose weight successfully and sustainably and it’s a very small percentage of people in general with most of those approaches. The key factor is adherence to the diet. So, what what? Like basically in other words, the people who actually stick to whatever it is that that diets getting you to do are the ones that are successful in the long run.
So, where your approach differs from basically all the other diets that are out there is all the other diets are trying to come up with a magical macronutrient ratio of carbs to fats and the magical list of good and bad foods that are acceptable or not acceptable based on whatever biochemical and physiological mechanisms and your approach is fundamentally different because you understand that adherence is the key factor. So, everything that you’re doing is designed to get people to actually do it and stick to it and have it be sustainable for life.
So, I want like, I want everybody listening to understand that sort of fundamental difference. This is not just, oh here’s another person with another diet that saying here’s the new list of good and bad foods that you should eat. And, and this is an extremely well thought out approach that is designed with adherence in mind and that’s the key factor to success.
So, I just want to emphasize for everybody listening that that is the key distinction, the key difference. This is not just another person out there with, “Oh, here’s, here’s my special diet with the new list of good and bad foods. You understand that adherence is the real key to long term success. And your program is designed with that in mind to facilitate that through like specific strategies that are designed to help people actually stick to all of these, these habits and actually make them habits for life.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah, absolutely. And the Reboot Rezoom program takes that even to the next level. That’s all I think about. Like I geek out on sustainability, longevity, adherence. I love the way you use the word adherence. Like, the key is like what are you actually going to be doing a year from now, two years from now, three years from now, and how does the way you start off, the way you set up your program impact the odds of that longevity, like the odds of actually be doing it long term.
So, for example, let’s just take a small thing that, people can debate or whatever, but like meal frequency, right? How many times a day should you eat? Well, if you’re thinking in terms of longevity and automaticity, fewer meals is better. Like what are the odds that you’re going to succeed brushing and flossing your teeth six times a day, day in and day out, and not miss and like have your toothpaste and floss on you at the right times and like stop what you’re doing to go floss your teeth, like the odds of getting that right are really slim. Like to succeed long term, you need to be eating with the type of automaticity that is in play when you’re brushing your teeth morning and night.
There are these time of day cues and these location cues that cue you into the right behavioral pattern. That’s how you need to get your food. It’s not about making the right choices. You won’t succeed if you’re making choices. You can’t. I think the research is like we make 200 food related choices a day. Odds are we’re grumpy and depleted during some of those choice moments. You need to avoid that situation where you’re like, F* it, let’s order a pizza, right? Like, I can’t even think about dinner right now. Take out please. It’s Friday night. I deserve it,
So, when you start to think about, implementation over the long term, you start to ask the question differently. It’s not like what’s, what digestive system and what are our ancestors do and how many. It’s not about that. It’s like what’s actually going to set me up to be able to execute long term in the face of stress in the real world.
Right. So, this is where like you and I, at the beginning we kind of went toe to toe because you are like, well the studies show this and I’m like, Ari, the studies haven’t been done. I’m talking like five years later who’s getting someone thin and keeping them there. Those studies haven’t been done and what I’m telling you is my system give me five years with somebody and not all of them, but I’ll have a chunk of them. The ones that were really willing and really ready, I will have them in right sized bodies five years from now. And like those are the factors that aren’t being studied.
Ari Whitten: I will say that I was skeptical of all that at first, but now having a, like I said, I have probably a thousand or so members in my, in my Energy Blueprint Program who have, who have been through Bright Line Eating and I’ve seen it, I’ve seen it firsthand. So, I just have to kind of shut up and accept that it’s true at this point and, and, and embrace it. Embrace that I’ve learned something really valuable from you in terms of realizing that those methods that you’re teaching really are key factors for long term success.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Wait, before you ask another question. So, I haven’t shared this with you yet. I’ve been in this like mode of like synthesizing all this sort of implicit data collection that I just did, right? And I just came up with an acronym for what I’m calling the essentials of long-term sustainable weight loss. Like if you really boil it down to its key elements, and you’ll love this because this is what everybody’s doing. Who’s living in a right size body, who’s living lean.
All of them, whether they get it for free because their system naturally rolls that way, they got a fast metabolism, they got good genes and they love to hit the gym and eat their Kale or people like me who fight for it the hard way and like, scratch and claw their way down to lean and figure out how to stay there.
This is what we’re all doing. It’s three things. The essentials are as fundamental as breathing air “A I R” and it’s Automaticity, Identity, and Rezoom. So, the automaticity is like, you have to be thinking about habits that become nonconscious. It’s not about making good choices, it’s about having good behavioral habits wired in, right? So, and you set that up in a way that works for your life, right? Like, some people are late morning eaters, some people like to eat breakfast at success. I’m like whatever. You have to wire in your automatic habits and have a baseline sort of behavioral pattern that rolls through your system automatically, like brushing your teeth.
So, automaticity and then identity. Like you have to be a person who lives healthy. A person who doesn’t eat that stuff. A person who thinks, “yeah, not joining you for, McDonald’s, because I don’t eat at McDonald’s, right? I’m not, I’m not like rocking up to an amusement park all day with no thoughts of what I’m going to eat because like they serve crap there and I don’t eat crap. Right?” So, a person whose identity is such that you’re not thinking, “oh, I can’t have that because it’s not on my diet”. No, you would never say that. Or “Oh, I think I’ll have a cheat day on Sunday”.
You would never say that. Like, you’re not someone who eats, crap normally is dieting right now and now having a cheat day. Like that’s the wrong identity frame, right? Like you’re someone who fills their body with whole real healthy, awesome food, right? That’s who you are. It changes your languaging, it changes how you think about yourself.
And then the Rezoom is like. And just so we spell it “REZOOM” like the speed, right?
Zoom, zoom right back. Rezoom. Someone in my tribe came up with that few years ago? I thought it was really cute. So, I think that’s gonna be my third book “Rezoom”
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Coming in 2021 probably. All right. Anyway, the Rezoom is like people who are healthy naturally, their systems want the Rezoom, like their systems cry out for the Rezoom.
Like they run on moderation, they deviate too far and they’re like, ” oh that kind of felt off a little extra. Like, oh, we got to get back to our home base our like baseline, like where we run naturally”, those of us who don’t get it for free, we wander off path and we’ll keep going if we don’t have things like bright lines or things like a community or whatever to pull us back to the center. But you got to expect the lapse.
You got to expect it and be ready to like have a way to pull yourself back because you know perfection is not available. This is planet earth with human beings. We don’t need to be perfect, but we need to be unstoppable and we need to have that Rezoom. So, Automaticity, Identity, and Rezoom A I R. That’s the framework. That’s what actually constitutes living happy, thin, and free long term.
The secret to healthy peoples success
Ari Whitten: Yeah. I love that. So, you, you just made a piece of research that I looked at probably four or five years ago, pop into my head. I don’t know if this is something that I’ve talked to you about before maybe a few years ago, but there’s research around something called that the healthy obsession and it’s research that I’ve always really been a fan of. I was thought it was very insightful in terms of, one of the things that they found is that people who are successful long term have a certain kind of personality or certain kinds of personality traits I should say. And one of the things that that happens, I won’t, I won’t go into all the details of this, but they developed this sort of healthy obsession with. And we have a negative stigma around that word obsession. But in this case, it’s a, it’s a, it’s a very positive thing.
It’s the people who are successful, long term improving their health, losing the weight, keeping it off for many, many years have become in a healthy way, obsessed with healthy habits. They become, uncompromising in their devotion to eating well to having healthy lifestyle habits. And what, there was one little facet of this research that I think is, is really interesting and related to what you’re talking about, also counterintuitive, which is that the people who are successful long term have a stronger negative reaction to deviating from their normal healthy habits. So, they have a stronger negative emotional reaction. Now, that kind of sounds like a bad thing that basically it’s the same thing that you’re talking about.
It’s that people who are, are committed to their achieving their goal, react to deviations, react to, coming off the plan with a sort of immediate negative emotional reaction, where they say they recognize the fact that they deviated and then they catalyze that negative emotional reaction into getting back on the plan.
Whereas the people who are not as successful, they either don’t have a such a strong negative emotional reaction. They kind of just go, oh well, whatever, screw it, and they’re sort of more laissez faire about the whole thing or it doesn’t actually become a catalyst for a, resuming positive change. It just becomes something where they’re now beating themselves up and berating themselves for deviating, but without any sort of productive, strategic thinking around what the solution is.
So, I’m just curious. I just wanted to introduce that and see what your thoughts are on that.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: I love it. I love it and I’d love to see the data because here’s what I would predict. In psychology, there’s all these different graphs and different domains that kind of do the same thing where it’s like, okay, down here this is like not enough activation energy that in this mid-range is the right amount and up here is too much. Right. That sort of general framework applies to so many things. Right? But like you can think of sort of the productive zone of discomfort and then the unproductive zone of panic. Right? And so, what I would predict is that some of my people experienced too much negative a reaction from a deviation and it becomes unproductive, right?
So, some of the reboot Rezoom framework is like, how do you expect that you’re going to relapse? Expect the falling off track in some way, even if it doesn’t go all the way to your food, you ate a cookie.
But it’s that, okay, I didn’t down my food for a few days and I’m not meditating anymore, and I haven’t. whatever your habits are, they keep you on track. The labs or the relapse always happens at some point, life shows up and you just feel a little off track. Guaranteed. The key is like to expect that your food journey is going to show up in sine waves with periods of time where you’re on your game and you’re on a peak and then periods of time where you’re lapsing or relapsing and falling off your game.
And how do you put in adaptive responses as you’re on the way down to language it in a way where it’s no big deal really, like it’s a thing but it’s not too big of a thing. Right. And it’s like, okay honey, well here we are in the lab space, and we know how to Rezoom, we know what to do to get back on track and like getting it back up there so that it’s not, what happens for some of us who have a really strong reaction because if we’ve gained back all our weight, like other people in my tribe who gained and lost 100 pounds five times in their life, right?
That starts to get terrifying. Like really scary. Like, oh no, I just picked up some food that’s off my plan. Am I about to shoot up? Like at, at my worst I gained from a size four to a size 24 in three months. That’s obscene. Like that. Like watching yourself do that. Google what a size four and a size 24 looks like. That’s off the hook from like petite, tiny, slender to morbidly obese in three months and basically sitting in a closet and eating for three months.
Okay. So, if you’ve watched yourself do that, being off track could be noticing you just ate a cookie and you’re a bright line eater. You don’t eat cookies like that could be really scary. So what happens when the system, your body is freaked out is a massive sympathetic nervous system response, fight or flight, which narrows your, your focus and it floods your body with hormones that signal like, you’re breathing heavy, you feel like you gotta, get out of dodge or you’re frozen or whatever, and all of a sudden it becomes really hard to do some basic things that would help you get back on track.
Right? In particular, like if we, if we access the anxiety literature, what differentiates people who experience anxiety, like fear over airplane travel for example, and people who don’t is a feeling of perceived control. Like I step onto an airplane and I feel in control. I got my little area, I’m going to do my work. I’ve got my computer, my laptop, my journal, I’m going to watch a movie, I’m gonna, take a nap. Like I feel completely in control.
Someone who’s afraid of airplane travel there thinking I’m in a steel box, 30,000 feet up in the air and I could plummet to the earth at any time and I got no say that I’m completely out of control this whole time…
Ari Whitten: Going 500 miles per hour.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: So, if you’ve picked up the bite or you’re like, you’re off track, like having a framing where you’re in control of that process, you expected it and you know exactly what to do now. Like we know how to ride the train, right?
So I love how you said those, those people who who are successful living, I call it happy, thin and free, whatever is my tagline, right? those people who are successful at that, it’s a thing when they fall off track, it’s not, it ain’t no thing, it’s a thing and they use that as activation energy to get back on track. So, it’s a two-part thing, right? It’s got to be both. And I would add a third thing. It can’t be too much of a thing.
Ari Whitten: Yeah. Too much of a thing that you are depressed, and you hate yourself and you hate your life.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: You are in a shame spiral. What happens is it pulls you away from support. Now you’re like, okay, I’m a piece of shit and I can’t be. I’m not fit for human company. And I got to like go hide until I get this figured out on my own. That’s not the helpful response.
Ari Whitten: So, I want to mention one quick thing in case it’s not obvious to people listening to these principles don’t just apply to weight loss. These principles equally apply to, for example, people going through my program trying to recover their energy levels. It’s the same principles you’re hyped up, you’re super excited. You just got this new program. You go into it full force. I mean as with any program, we know, you know the stats. The same thing with reading books, buying any program, starting a meditation practice, anything.
You’re super excited about it. And then you do it. Maybe it, like religiously and consistently for a few days, a few weeks, maybe a few months, and then we naturally start to fall off whatever, whatever it is, whatever the habit or, or the practices or the program or the book, whatever it is that, that same principle applies. So, what you’re talking about is sort of identifying the key elements of how do you get back on track.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah. Yeah. And really it’s like you take, you take this like restart sort of crash and burn merry go round cycle and you just smooth off the edges and then you raise the whole thing up so that the sine wave there has some cushion between your low points and what I call like the danger and destruction zone, that zone where you’re really engaging in some profoundly unhealthy behaviors, right? You just create cushion there. And in my experience, some of the most potent things for creating that cushion are social support.
Like we’re herd animals and we will engage in behaviors that are normalized by our tribe. And we will not continuously engage in behaviors that everyone around us is saying are weird or aberrant. so, you got to be really careful who you run with and a lot of us have family and colleagues at work whose health behaviors we have no control over, right?
So, what that means is you’re going to have to self-select a community and make it robust enough like develop actual real connections that are meaningful to you in that community to normalize the healthy habits that you want to emulate.
Because the reality is that, society out there right now is profoundly unhealthy. If you roll with the normal, you’re going to be fat, sick, miserable with no energy and dying, 15, 20 years too young with a lot of joint pain. That’s just the way it’s going to be, right?
So, you have to surround yourself by choice, by design with people who feedback that your behaviors which are swimming upstream from society are normal and appropriate. And the people giving you flack about it out there, well they’re off their rocker because like look at them like you don’t, you want to be different from that.
Ari Whitten: I’m so glad you brought this up. I talk about the same principle in slightly different words, but one of the things I tell people is “Hey look, everybody has this desire to sort of be normal, to not do behaviors that are weird, that are perceived to be extreme, that are perceived to be radically different from whatever the norm is” and that’s fine and that’s programmed into us by evolution. Here’s the problem.
In the modern Western world, the majority of people, what is normal as a result of the way and pretty much everybody is living, they are destined to become overweight or obese. They are destined to get some kind of chronic disease, which is a disease of lifestyle. Things like heart disease, most cancers, most neurological disease, many of these other things that are becoming massive epidemics in the last few decades. These are becoming normal.
So, what you have to understand is that if you let that desire to be normal and to be like everybody else run you, you too will be destined for those things. So, if you don’t want to be destined for those things, if you want to be lean, energetic, and live a long time free of debilitating symptoms and disease, you have to make a conscious decision to be a little bit weird. and I use that word as weird as, as perceived by most regular people. You have to be different. You have to be quote unquote extreme, in your commitment to being healthy.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: You gotta surround yourself with five or six people that you’re actually in touch with on a regular basis who were weird like you. No one who’s a human being with a beating heart. And sensitive to the social cues little which is all of us, no one can run that different sustainably long term.
We just can’t. We have to surround ourselves with people who mirror back that we belong and that we’re okay. And you, yes, you got it. You got to develop a tribe so that that creates some of the cushion. I think the rest of the cushion is created by, while there’s some positive psychology, things that are really helpful like meditation. Boy adjust, especially around food behaviors because eating is one of these things that happens with a certain frequency, right?
The you’re going to need to be engaging in eating behaviors when you’re triggered, when, when you’re emotional, when you’re fighting with your partner, when your kids are crawling at you and you’re going out of your mind like you have to build in that pause, that sense of not jumping into reaction mode.
Being able to respond rather than react and meditation is. It’s the best way to sort of be able to respond to the world with poison equanimity even when it’s feeling a little crazy. So, meditation, Super Helpful. Gratitude is super. I know these are these sound like so Mamby Pamby, right? Like just such like, Whoa, Whoa, whatever, but they fricking work. They really do. They really do.
And then it’s the. It’s the actions like in Bright Line Eating, we’re so into how the actions turn into habits, turn into automatic habits that then you get for free so they’re not taxing your cognitive resources and it becomes like brushing your teeth like stuff you execute every day without the sticky note on your mirror to remind you. That you don’t wake up every day saying, I’m going to brush my teeth twice today. I got this. I’m not going to fail like I’m on a roll now.
I’ve been doing it for a month. I got to keep going. Right? You have to think about that with brushing your teeth. You got to get your food. You’re eating wired in like that and, and that’s why I tell people in Bright Line Eating, Ari, you’re so right. I don’t care if you’re Keto. I don’t care if you’re a whole food plant based. I don’t care if you think that you know you need more fat or less fat or a different kind of protein like whatever.
As long as you’re eating a ton of vegetables and you’re not eating sugar and flour, which is code word for like all processed crap, right? The like the body’s gonna forgive you on the details. Eat or vegetables. Don’t eat the sugar and flour. I don’t care what you do with the rest, but do it the bright line way like automaticity, identity, Rezoom. We’re going to get you doing this for years and years and years and years. Right? I guess just like you said, it’s not about the magic macronutrient combination. Get your head out of that. It doesn’t. That doesn’t matter. It doesn’t.
The problem with the need for novelty
Ari Whitten: I have one more question for you. I know you have to run at the top of the hour here. So, my last question is, in this kind of picture of, being on it and then, and then kind of falling off the wagon and then getting back on track or not getting back on track in some cases.
What, importance do you give to novelty? And, and what I mean by that is I’m like, the way I’ve always perceived this as that novelty is kind of a factor in people’s motivation is that people hear about some new diet. It becomes trendy. And it’s like, oh, the grapefruit diet. Oh, Keto.
Oh, the, the Carnivore Diet, oh, this, this particular, whatever, Atkins or, Ornish or South Beach or whatever it is. And so that becomes a thing. It enters people’s consciousness because they’re hearing about it or reading about it or seeing ads about it or whatever. And they are now convinced, oh, this is the magical diet.
The reason I failed on all my previous attempts, was just because I didn’t have that right magical diet and the true list of good foods and bad foods. Now this is my real ticket to success. So, and, and, and then, once they do that new thing for a period of time and then the results sort of wane and then they start to fall off and they’re less, they lose motivation. Like what happens with everything. And some new thing comes into their awareness. And now they have this really strong motivation again. So, how do you keep people’s motivation really high in the absence of that kind of novelty?
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Yeah, I agree. That kind of novelty is a problem. it’s super problematic. And at the end of the day I would say two things. when you’re choosing a plan, like you’re, you are overweight, obese. Some if a health issue and you’re choosing a plan, I want you to be thinking about a few things.
It’s kinda like you want to climb Mount Everest. Almost nobody loses their excess weight and keeping it off long term. It’s light, it’s dangerous. It’s like this is a track and don’t ever around. Right? So, find a guide who can prove to demonstrate to you that they make it up the mountain and back with lots of people who are just like you at your fitness level, at your, whatever. And that they’ve done it before. Right?
Like none of those plans that you mentioned have any track record of getting people into rightsized bodies and keeping them there.
Ask them they don’t. Right? So, before you go jumping on the novel thing, it’s like, where’s the science that shows that, this program is actually helping someone like me get thin and stay thin, right? So that’s the first thing that test will eliminate most plans and then you’re going to have to stick with something long term. Like longevity is the only thing that works.
And in my experience, what keep you there is the people, the community. Again, you have to invest in relationships with people who are doing it so that at the end of the day when your head tells you, “oh, this is hard, I’m tired of this. I don’t know if this is working for me anymore.” It’s going to happen. Like the melees sets in.
You have human beings who are surrounding you and keeping you on the ship. You’ve got to be on the mothership with the people. And they’re like, I know. I feel like sometimes I feel that way too, but don’t worry how you got this right. Like, don’t leave us. We’re all here together on this journey. It’s got to be a track that you take with other human beings because otherwise you’re just flitting from plan to plan, to plan, to plan and. Good, good luck with that. Right? How well has that been working for you?
Ari Whitten: I’ll mention one quick thing. I, in my younger years, I was a personal trainer for, for many years. And one of the things that I and many other trainers always talk about is you see people who are looking for the magic plan, who we’re looking for, here’s the magic, the exercise regimen that just results in amazing transformations in a matter of days or a few weeks and then after, so they’re doing a plan that you’ve designed for them.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: And then after a few weeks go by, they’re seeing slow, steady progress, but it’s not quite fast enough. So, they’re there in that magic pill mentality. They want to see radical transformation like that.
So then, after a few weeks they shift to a totally different style of working on a totally different plan. And then after another few weeks they shift to another totally different style of working out. And then guess what, four years later, five years later, 10 years later, they still look exactly the same as they did at the outset, whereas the people who decided they were going to model the people who are successful, boring and lacking novelty as it may be, but just grinding away consistently at those fundamentals day after day, week after week, year after year.
Ari Whitten: Those are the people who over time move mountains and become radically different and I think it’s the same here. It’s like part of it is just having the intelligence to find something that has a proven track record of success and committing to consistently follow that for months and years and then like just doing it and resisting that magic pill urge to find the next magical thing that’s going to give you instant results.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: That’s right? Look at us, but we’ve liked synced up are totally. Instead of only thinking about 150 hours of scientific discussions on the science of fat loss.
Ari Whitten: Now we’re good. No more arguing.
Cool. Well, Susan, this has been an absolute pleasure as always, and we’ll have a link. I’m going to be supporting your launch of your new Reboot Rezoom program. We’ll have a link on page, we’ll put it up the energy blueprint.com forward slash Rezoom. www.theenergyblueprint.com/rezoom. So, do you want to leave anybody with a sort of final words about this program? What is it? What are the dates? But it’s launching by the way.
How to register for Reboot Rezoom
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Registration opens December 28th and closes January third and the video series. We’ll be open for longer than that. but that’s when the course is open and yeah, my final words are. I’m just remember you are not called to be perfect on this journey. You are not. Your called to be unstoppable.
Ari Whitten: Beautiful. I love it. Well, thank you so much Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson. As always, such a pleasure and I’ll let you get to your next meeting. Have a wonderful day and I hope that we have a lot of people join your new launch and I’m sure that it’s going to be absolutely wonderful material.
Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D.: Thanks. Ari. So, going to be with you
Ari Whitten: Yeah.
What Sabotages Healthy Lifestyle Habits and How to Become Unstoppable In Achieving Your Health Goals with Dr. Susan Peirce Thompson, Ph.D. – Show Notes
What is Bright Line Eating? (1:35)
Why Susan developed the Reboot Rezoom program (11:11)
The disconnect between what the science and general public knows about weight loss (17:14)
The key factor to sustainable long-term weight loss (18:20)’
The secret to healthy peoples success (29:00)
The problem with the need for novelty (44:22)
How to register for Reboot Rezoom (50:42)